How to Tell Time in Writing: 7 Easy Steps
Clarity is essential when writing the time of day, as anyone who has accidentally shown up to a noon meeting at midnight can attest. However, there are a variety of ways to express the time, and the most appropriate choice may not always be blatant. However, we do have some advice that may be of use.
To indicate the time of day, you can use either words or numbers. Usually, when writing a time in numerals, you'll include both the hour and the minute, but in less formal situations, you can omit the minute.
Examples of acceptable usage include:
Every day, she awakes at six o'clock.
Each day, she awakens at 6:00 a.m.
Every morning, she awakens at 6 a.m.
However, the time should only be written out in words when:
- It's an integral part of a sentence, and it often serves a literary or descriptive function.
- 12-hour timekeeping (never 24-hour timekeeping)
- In this context, you seem to be referring to a round or approximative time (e g It's acceptable to say "ten thirty," but "twenty-four minutes after eight" is not something you'd typically write.
When writing in a more formal style, such as that used in science and technology, it is usually preferable to use numerals to represent the time.
The difference between morning and night
When writing the time in numeral form, you can abbreviate it as AM or PM. They are all relevant at various times of the day:
- The abbreviation for "before noon" is "AM," which is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase "ante meridie ”
- PM stands for post meridiem, which translates to "after noon." ”
When consulting a 12-hour clock, we denote the time of day as either "am" or "pm." If we list times of day in both the 12-hour and 24-hour formats, it becomes clearer how this system functions:
Timekeeper with a 12-Hour Display
Mechanical Clock That Keeps Accurate Time for 24 Hours
The time is 3 a.m.
It is currently 8:50 in the morning
At the stroke of three o'clock
Eight o'clock in the evening
Clearly, the twelve-hour clock requires AM and PM to avoid confusion. Not having them would make it impossible to distinguish between g daytime and nighttime However, a 24-hour time does not require the AM or PM designations because the time of day is obvious.
Additionally, AM and PM can be written in a variety of ways, such as:
- CAPS LOCK, UPPER CASE, or LOWER CASE (e g , 12 AM, 12 AM , or 12 am)
- Whether the letters are capitalized or not (e g , 8 PM or 8 P M )
- Whether a space follows the number (e g (That's right, it's 1 in the morning, not 1 a.m.)
Maintaining a uniform style throughout the entire document is essential. If your company has a style guide, you might want to consult it as well, as different establishments have different preferences for the use of AM and PM.
O'clock: When to Use It
Some of you may have also noticed that we use the term "o'clock" in one of the aforementioned instances. Time can be indicated by a number by using this phrase, which literally means "of the clock."
However, "o'clock" should only be used in conjunction with specific times:
Currently, the time is 5 o'clock to the minute. ✔
At seven o'clock, I'll be on my way out. ✔
As of 7:34 PM, it had arrived. ✘
At seven minutes past seven, the show will begin. ✘
Defining "wine o'clock" is a topic for another post.
Four: Before, After, After, and To
To indicate a gap in time between hours when writing the time in words, use "after," "past," and "to." These phrases can be used in conjunction with either numerical values or the words "half" and "quarter" to indicate different time intervals:
- Refer to after or past for times up to 30 minutes after the hour
- Refer to for times greater than 30 minutes and less than an hour.
- Half past means 30 minutes after the hour.
- Fifteen minutes after the hour is indicated by quarter past or quarter after.
- Get 15 minutes to an hour with a quarter.
The above, for instance, would be put to good use in the following situations:
It is now 7:05, or 5:05 pm.
Seventeen minutes past the hour
Half past seven, or 7:30
Seven minutes and 45 seconds to eight o'clock
Time:7:55, or between the hours of 5:00 and 8:00
Note that "after" is only commonly used for timing in American English. The word "past" is used much more frequently in other English dialects.
Fifth, Time Marks
You can use a colon or a period between the hour and the minutes when writing the time in numerals. It is acceptable to write a 24-hour time without any punctuation in certain contexts, such as the military.
The following are examples of appropriate punctuation for times:
We have to get going no later than 6:45 o'clock ✔
It is imperative that we depart no later than 6 o'clock. 9:45 p.m. if possible ✔
At the very latest, we must depart by 1845. ✔
Here, the colon is typically used, but you can use whichever punctuation mark you like. Unless you're a member of the armed forces, in which case you should observe protocol.
Sixth, the Time Zones
For the 48 states that make up the USA's mainland, there are four time zones:
- Time Zone: PST (UTC-08:00)
- (UT-07:00) Mountain Time
- Located in the Central Time Zone (CT) [UTC-06:00]
- Time Zone: EST (UTC-5:00)
In addition to the standard time zones, there are six additional time zones for Alaska, Hawaii, and the five US territories. As a result, people in other countries operate under entirely different time zones.
What we're getting at is that geographical factors can complicate timekeeping.
As a result, the time is sometimes followed by a time zone when it is written. In the case of the preceding example, the letters UTC refer to Coordinated Universal Time. Useful for making cross-country time comparisons As a result, "UTC-8:00" indicates that Pacific Time is 8 hours later than UTC. It is easy to calculate that Eastern Time is three hours ahead of Pacific Time (ET) if we know that PT is eight hours behind UTC and ET is five hours behind UTC.
That is to say, when we write a time, we can help people in other locations "translate" it into their own time zone by including the time zone in which we are located.
Since not everyone reading your work will be in the same time zone, it's crucial that you take this into account. To help your reader determine what time it is in their own time zone, you should provide a set of time zone initials. If we were writing a time for a global audience, for instance, we might say:
Tonight at 9:00 p.m. UTC, the live broadcast will begin.
Using the UTC–BOT (Bolivia Time) time zone conversion tool, a Bolivian would learn that the broadcast begins at 5:00 pm BOT.
7 Tips for Creating an Effective Time
Redundancy, in the context of writing, refers to the repetition of a word. For instance, we discussed how AM and PM are unnecessary when referring to 24-hour times because it is clear from the context whether the time being referenced is morning, afternoon, or evening.
There are other potential instances of temporal redundancy that you should try to avoid, such as when:
- Time of day expressions like "in the morning," "in the afternoon," etc. along with the clock's AM/PM
- Consolidating "at breakfast," "after lunch," "after dinner," etc. , using a time-zone system that runs on a
- Pairing a numeric time with the words "midday," "noon," or "midnight"
In order to help you spot redundancies, we'll give you a few examples at the end of this post. Have a look at the chart below, do your best with the clock, and don't hesitate to ask for assistance with editing.
In other words, the party is over when 17:00 PM
The party is over when 17:00
The party is over when 5:00 PM
Time of departure is Time of day: 6 a.m.
Time of departure is 6AM
Time of departure is Time of Day: 6:00 AM
That night, he turned in at Time: 23:00
That night, he turned in at 23:00
After he finished, he went to bed at Time: 11 o'clock
Please meet me at The midday hour
Please meet me at twelve
Please meet me at noon
(N B Given that 'twelve' on its own could mean either midday or midnight, the preferred alternative correction is 'noon. )
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